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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

It's Halloween at last! My favourite day of the year; finally. To celebrate, my boyfriend and I have booked an entire two days off work to binge watch Stranger Things (it'll probably only take one day but there's an extra day just in case...) since we forgoed Halloween parties or anything like that.

If you're like me though, you may find yourself leaving Halloween plans to the last minute like I have done in previous years. You want to do something spooky but you don't quite know what exactly, and by the time you decide to do anything remotely related to the holiday, everything is booked up and all the shops are sold out of their decor.

Still, even if you're sat at home on your todd tonight, even if you're working today..there are still some small last minute ways you can still celebrate.

Here's how.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | 10 small ways you can still celebrate Halloween

READ A SCARY BOOK | Anything by Stephen King gets top pick, or there's plenty of zombie-related books out there too.

CARVE A PUMPKIN | Obvs. The supermarkets might be sold out of the proper big ones, but who's to say a small and cute one can't be scary in it's own way?

EAT ON DECORATED PLATES | Shops will more than likely have a few Halloween party plates left over (and likely on sale today too). Why not have your dinner on some spooky themed plates tonight instead? Bonus points if you also pick up decorated paper cups. We're using pumpkin trick or treat buckets as bowls for crisps tonight...

BINGE WATCH A SCARY SERIES | Stranger Things all the way! There's also Black Mirror, iZombie and Scream.

EAT SOMETHING SPOOKY | Which brings me onto my next point: theme your food! Mini cocktail sausages in pastry can easily be made into mummy-themed snacks and carrots can be made to look like fingers = just add a side of hummus. These are just a few ideas that can be easily done, but I've heard places like Tesco also have some great recipes for creepy slimy cakes.

HALLOWEEN COCKTAILS | You really can't go wrong with cool looking cocktails that are too pretty to drink but then get you tipsy when you do. Most can be made with the alcohol you already have at home as well: just add food colouring.

WATCH A SCARY MOVIE (OR TWO) | This one is obvious. And yes, Netflix has tons of picks to choose from.

STREAM A SPOOKY PLAY LIST | There's tons on spotify, including music by the likes of MJ and Backstreet Boys. Take your pick. Note; this also works very well with Halloween cocktails, even if you are alone ;)

TRY SOME SCARY MAKEUP | Even if you don't have plans to leave the house, you could always practice your makeup skills and will have that sh*t down ready for Halloween 2018. Go all out with a clown or doll face, or just incorporate some dark glitter and gothic lipstick into your everyday look for a seasonal edge. 

GO TRICK OR TREATING | I bet it's been years since you've left the house dressed up to knock on other people's doors. Get into the Halloween spirit by borrowing a small child (preferably one you're related to or know like a niece or a friends kid!) and enjoy an Halloween tradition. Or decorate your front porch/door and buy some sweets to welcome any trick or treaters that might operate in your area, especially if in previous years you've drawn your curtains and pretended to not be home.

And if you don't have any costumes in for any of the ideas above? When in doubt, always use loo roll and make yourself into an Egyptian mummy! Just make sure you use safety pins so it doesn't all unravel minutes after leaving the house like what happened to me when I was younger...

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Sunday, 29 October 2017

Oh, email inboxes. 

I have such a love/hate relationship with mine.

When I first upgraded from my 13-year old emo email address (which was something along the lines of suga371 - god help me) and chose a more professional address (Louise.Joy@hotmail.com), I felt super sophisticated and having a near empty inbox with nothing marked as unread was really satisfying to me.

Over the years though, this has changed a lot. I get so much junk email that just looking at my inbox gives me anxiety. Luckily I do still get some good emails like blogging opportunities or, um, packages being sent out, but as a whole, apart from these, there didn't used to be a whole lot else.

Until I decided to up my email game and sign up to some semi-decent email newsletters. Nothing amazing, of course, but just a few to give me something interesting to read or to brighten an otherwise boring day.

Here are my favourite newsletters.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | 5 useful newsletters to brighten your inbox | LuckyTrip | Time Out London | The Lineup | Travel Zoo | Emerald Street

EMERALD STREET
I love Emerald Street, a bite sized daily email curated for savvy young professionals. The newsletter covers lifestyle, beauty, fashion, food and more and also includes restaurant recommendations, book reviews and discounts. There's also a small round up at the end of each email with more professional reads; think current news, thought provoking features and interesting articles that are worth creating conversations over.

TRAVEL ZOO
C'mon, there needs to be at least one wistful bargain related email subscription, right? I may have never actually booked anything though travel zoo but I still scroll through wishing I was on holiday rather than stuck in the UK reading emails...

TIME OUT LONDON
Time Out London is my go-to place to what's going on in London and it's usually via this newsletter that I get updates about some of the coolest pop-ups in the capital. There's usually exclusive discount if you're a member too.

THE LINEUP
For those who like their email newsletters to be a little on the spooky side, The Lineup is the newsletter for you. The content varies from addictive and unsolved murder crimes, bizarre Halloween costumes and creepy ghost stories. I love reading this when I haven't felt creeped out in a while and it often leaves me in an internet black hole for a few hours, reading all about the paraformal. It's perfect for Halloween too!

LUCKY TRIP
Even if you don't have the app, the Lucky Trip newsletter is definitely worth subscribing to. Each email is jam-packed with travel inspiration and most recommendations have a theme, too. For example, the latest newsletter included a list of bone churches around the world for Halloween and focus on an abandoned doll factory. There's also the 'LOL FLIGHTS' segment which includes deals on flights 'so cheap it's almost a joke...'

These are just five of my favourite email newsletters, but it has taken me a while to find ones I love! Even now I get bombarded with many I forgot I signed up for and have to unsubscribe but these ones have stuck. Do you have any email subscriptions you think are worth signing up for? Let me know!

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Last night I was lucky enough to head down the road to Mead Open Farm in Leighton Buzzard (practically on my door step!) to check out and review their Halloween scare attraction, The Howl Scream Park.

I love anything scary and have been to similar things in the past, such as Dr Fright Night's, so I had high expectations of this place and was really looking forward to it.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | Tulleys - The Howl Scream Park @ Mead Open Farm | Tulleys | The Howl Scream park | Mead Open Farm

Upon arrival, it was clear to see a lot was going on, such as a bonfire, actors roaming the park/farm area, a bar and even a live band. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to check out much else other than the actual attractions which is a huge shame because as well as being scary, the whole place had a really laid back and seasonal vibe. I'd have loved to have stayed and checked out the band and even had a few drinks - but there's always next time!

Still, there was of course plenty of time to scare ourselves silly and so we braved the five scare attractions/mazes/walkthroughs on offer: Hotel de Basquervilles, Topper's Twister, House of Hounds, The Shed and Squealers Yard.

I will try my best to avoid spoilers here but if you have yet to go and really want to be surprised, I'd stop reading here. Still, I cannot quite describe the tension and the fear factor we felt going through each attraction so even if you do read on to discover what some of them have to offer - set wise, anyway - there's still lots to anticipate.

Each attraction had it's own unique storyline and was rather different from the last; no two felt the same and I thought this was done really well. There's only so much you can do with these type of attractions and although the set's and theme can be different, often scares are the same.

This wasn't the case here though. Yes, essentially people jump out at you but scares and jump tactics actually varied per walkthrough which was really good. In one, we found ourselves exploring a bright white room filled with smoke and fog, making us unable to see or anticipate what was coming for us. This really built the tension in a way I hadn't felt before. In another, we had fun finding ourselves disoriented with a rotating tunnel, which meant I had to try and concentrate on staying on my feet and try and avoid getting too scared!

The attention to detail in each attraction was amazing. I particularly loved Topper's Twister, which had a real twisted circus theme to it, with fake slides coming out of the walls and giant toy blocks. There was also a small ball pit, but I was rather disappointed to learn we were not going to go through that, haha. 

How fun/scary would it be trying to escape a clown whilst wading through a ball pit?!

But my hands down favourite had to be Hotel de Basquervilles. This spooky haunted hotel had so much to see and offer in each individual room, from a creepy white static TV to clothes and material hanging from the ceiling. It was really cool and I liked that there were a few less actors in this particular walkthrough as it instead gave us the chance to really notice each room and for the tension to build too.

In terms of scares: I certainly jumped and screamed a lot. Some attractions had more 'jump' scares than others, but I liked that it wasn't too over the top. Some places go overboard with scaring their audience, meaning the audience doesn't have the chance to really enjoy themselves or take in anything. This was just right.

Overall, it was so much fun and I actually want to go back again to explore each set in further detail and experience those scares again! The Howl Scream Park is definitely one of my favourite scare attractions yet and I'll no doubt be returning next Halloween.

If you haven't yet popped down, make sure you do. It's a great night out to get scared and then have a laugh with friends and family afterwards with a cold beer at the bonfire or with some warm food listening to live music.

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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Becoming vegan is certainly a journey - and a tough one at that. 

Deciding to take the plunge to give up meat and dairy may feel like the hardest part - and in some ways, it is a big decision from the reasons to doing it to whether or not you feel like your body can handle it - but what comes after is tough too, no matter how much research you do.

At first it's very daunting: learning how to read labels for what not to eat, bombarding yourself with recipes and studying other ways you can get the protein and nutrients you'll no longer get from meat.

Then there's the food part. It's tough knowing you'll be giving up some of your favourite foods. What I have found hardest is giving up McDonalds and things like a Saturday night curry or Sunday roast dinner with my family. This has been tough because things like a Sunday roast are less about the taste and more about being with family and sticking to the tradition of that certain meal on a weekend.

Luckily, there are so many alternatives out there for all sorts: milk, butter, meat and chocolate - but finding what alternatives are best for you/which taste you prefer takes a lot of time. It takes months of trial and error - in fact it was only when I met my boyfriend did I finally settle on an alternative milk that makes tea taste like tea!

I'm going to share my favourites for you all - although it's worth noting that just because I like it, it doesn't mean you will! Still, it's always helpful to be faced with more options as there may be some alternatives you might not be aware of already.

Here are my favourite vegan products and vegan alternatives.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Food | Vegan | My favourite vegan products | Vegan alternatives

CHEESE
Cheese is a tough one for me: I was never a huge lover of cheese or never paid much attention to different types of cheese, but I love things like cheese toasties and a simple cheese and onion sandwich. My favourite vegan go-to cheese is definitely Violife's original flavour block: it does the job for things like pizza bases, being grated on most meals and also is nice for in a sandwich. The only thing I would say is that it's a tad rubbery when grating and doesn't have a ton of flavour, so if having it in a sandwich, it definitely needs some onion or pickle too. Violife's 'halloumi' Mediterranean block has mixed opinions: it's great in my take of a grilled cheese and chorizo roll, but I wouldn't say it tastes of halloumi. It's definitely got tons of flavour and has the right consistency though. Also from Violife: cheese slices work well for basic recipes like burgers or rolls. Mozzarella is great for a pizza topping and in sandwiches, and I can also recommend Tesco's Free From Original Style Spread for when you're feeling posh and want a decent cream cheese.

MILK
Luckily, most coffee places like Starbucks and Costa now stock Soya milk and other milk alternatives but my favourite milk is hands down Oatly's Oat Drink. It's the closest thing to milk I've tasted and is perfect in a cuppa or with cereal. The Chocolate Oat Drink is lush too.

MEAT
I've actually found that most vegan alternative meat tastes just like meat when you put it together in a meal, which leads me to think the whole eating meat thing is more to do with sight and presentation. I had vegan hot dogs recently and because I presented them in an actual hot dog bun with onions and ketchup and such, I actually forgot they were meat free. Still, some of my favourite alternatives include Fry's chicken style strips (great for stir fry's and curries!), Fry's chicken style burgers and Fry's pepper pies and country mushroom pies. Pretty much anything Fry's! I'm not a huge fan of Linda McCartney's range but OH MY GOSH her Mini Pork & Apple Sausage Rolls are AMAZING. Seriously. If you love mini sausage rolls at Christmas like me, you'll be pleased as punch. Just note - these are stated as vegetarian in the name, but are actually vegan too, despite being called vegetarian mini pork and apple sausage rolls.

But seriously though.You gotta try them. I was legit like this when I first tasted them:


TREATS
OREOS! Oreos, Oreos and nothing else. I joke. But seriously the fact that Oreo's are vegan is the best news ever. Ben & Jerry's vegan range is lush too, but some other treats I really enjoy are: Pot Noodle Beef & Tomato flavour, Asda's Onion Rings (currently munching on these as I type), Chopstix, Walker's French Fries Ready Salted, Original flavour Pringles, (can you tell I love my crisps?!), Original Hobnobs, Kettle Chips Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar flavour, Love Hearts, Nākd bars and many more to discover.

I'll also say it's worth checking both Tesco and ASDA for their dedicated Free From sections. Though not all products are vegan in these areas, a majority are and once you're comfortable understanding labels, you're bound to find tons of yummy items you didn't realize are vegan. Luckily, Tesco's Free From products are really easy to understand - just look out for the label that includes Free From Milk (but obviously check the back too in case it includes egg).

Also, Tesco do a very delicious hummus and falafel wrap as part of it's lunchtime meal deal!

These are just some of my favourite products that I have discovered over the past few months; every time I shop however I come across new things to try and to add to my favourite shopping list. It's amazing how easy being vegan can be once you've got a set list of products and vegan alternatives for basics like milk, meat etc.

Do you have any go-to vegan products you can recommend? Let me know with a comment!

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Halloween can be tough when you're an adult.

You're too old to go trick or treating, usually you're working over Halloween so dressing up, going out and getting drunk is often out of the question and if you're anything like me, you'll leave plans until the last minute and then end up doing...nothing.

Halloween can often be overwhelming with the older you get, but there are small ways you can pay homage to the celebration without going over the top. One way is to succumb to all those odd areas of the internet and see where it leads you.

Here are some of my favourite creepy finds on the internet; may you end up spending hours scrolling through google and message boards by researching such oddities.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | 5 creepy internet finds to google this Halloween | Elisa Lam | The Tamam Shud Case | the Mystery of the Somerton Man | 11B-X-1371 |

THE TAMAM SHUD CASE
Hold onto your socks because this mystery is a big one. The Tamam Shud case is also known as the Mystery of the Somerton Man, aka an unidentified man found dead on Somerton beach back in December 1948. Four months after his death, a piece of paper was found in his pocket and written on it were the words tamám shud, meaning ended or finished. The book which the paper was torn from was found later, and in the book police found a local telephone number, another unidentified number and a text that resembled an encrypted message. This is just the beginning though and there are unanswered questions about what was found with his body when it was discovered, who the telephone number belonged to, the discovery of a suitcase apparently belonging to the man and the lead up to his death. The case - still unresolved all these years later - is a fascinating one and you'll certainly find yourself falling down a rabbit hole reading up about it all.

CREEPY THINGS SAID BY CHILDREN
There are many a great thread surrounding all the creepy stuff that has come out of children's mouths, from the oddly hilarious to the down right bonkers. These are great to read regardless, but if you really want to be creeped out, focus on things said from kids all about the paranormal and past lives. There have been stories of kids seeing spirits belonging to relatives long passed before then (and often before having even seen a photo of said relative), and spot on 'memories' from past lives, including the process of 'choosing' their new mum and dad. It's often said that children's minds are more vulnerable than ours - therefore making it easier for them to see ghosts as adults tend to disbelieve in the paranormal once they grow up - which makes it even creepier. If you're a strong believer in the paranormal, you won't be sleeping tonight after googling creepy stuff said by children - trust me.

11B-X-1371
You might remember this creepy video going viral a couple of years ago. In the video, a man is shown wearing a plague doctor costume in an abandoned cabin. He says nothing, but the soundtrack is creepy enough. There's also a whole bunch of hidden images within the video which are both encrypted and gory. At the time, people suspected it was an advertisement for a creepy video game or that it was even a terrorism threat. But, this one you don't have to fear about for long: it was later debunked to be a piece of art. Still creepy though.

THE BIZARRE CASE OF ELISA LAM
I've actually blogged about this one before, but it's still really disturbing, even if you do chalk it all up to Elisa Lam having mental health issues. Elisa was somebody who went missing and the last found footage of her showed her running into a lift at the Cecil hotel and acting strangely - almost as if she was scared of someone. Her actions almost look like she's possessed, and you can still view this footage online (although there are theories that part of the footage has been cut out). She was later found dead in a water tank on the roof (with no plausible way of getting there), and even with the suggestion that perhaps her bipolar disorder led her to suicide, there's still a lot of unanswered questions, such as changes in the autopsy report, how she got into the water tank without anyone elses help and the strange instances in the lift. This is definitely one to read up about online - I'd love to hear your theories - and you can go as far as to finding her old blog entries. As a bonus, the Cecil hotel actually has a gruesome past of it's own - with many deaths and suicides having taken place there.

CRUISE SHIP DEATHS
Thinking about going on a cruise this summer? Perhaps think again. Did you know there's a large number of unsolved causes of death on cruise ships, as well as many deaths covered up? From what I know, the laws about dying on a cruise ship are a little less straight forward when you're sailing the sea's and between countries, so it makes sense that many have been covered up. One of the most popular cases, however, is that of Rebecca Coriam - who disappeared on a Disney ship! Though she was last seen alive in March 2011, the case still remains under investigation, and it's rumoured that Disney have failed to handle the case properly to avoid negative press. There are accounts of crew members being told to cover up and lie about her death, further evidence regarding what happened that has yet to come to light and the theory that despite there being cameras everywhere on the ship, there is no proof that she 'fell' overboard as previously suggested.

I write about these cases respectfully and I am the first to admit how tough and hard it must be for the family and friends of people like Rebecca Coriam or Elisa Lam to not know the entire truth; however there's no doubt that cases such as the ones mentioned above clearly need looking into further. Sadly, there are a lot of conspiracy theories and mysteries that may never be resolved.

What are your theories on the above cases? Are there any other creepy internet finds you believe should be on this list? Let me know...

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Autumn is hands down one of the prettiest time of year and, with Christmas fast approaching, it also means romance is in the air. 

With warm summer days gone and the need to save for the upcoming season, those in relationships often put going out for dates on the back burner. It's natural in a relationship to settle into a routine of dinner at home and Netflix binges, and whilst there is nothing wrong with that, it's also nice to go on an actual date now and then.

So with that in mind, here are some autumn date ideas!

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Relationships | Dating | Lifestyle | Autumn date ideas | Love |

HUNT FOR THE PERFECT PUMPKIN
It seems the American trend of pumpkin patches has landed in the UK with patches springing up this year. Don your wellies and head over to find that *perfect* pumpkin, making sure to stop and take plenty of photos along the way. Then, head home and have fun carving the pumpkins (but make sure to keep the 'insides' for some recipes like pumpkin pie or soup!).

GO FOR A WALK
Yes, it sounds stupid, but sometimes it's really lovely to just leave your phones at home and go on a long walk to reconnect and focus on each other. Autumn is the perfect time for this with all the beautiful colours and crunchy leaves, so why not head to a local nature estate or something similar? If just walking isn't your thing, make it fun: download Pokemon Go and have a pokemon hunting date, or try Geocoaching (google it!).

SCARE YOURSELF SILLY
Visit a scare attraction to get that adrenaline going! There are plenty of scare attractions around the UK so you're bound to find one wherever you are - from a family friendly spooky farm or a theme park fright night.

GO FOR DINNER & A MOVIE
With Netflix and NOWTV, it's very rare that couples go to the cinema anymore - why would you when you have so much entertainment at your fingertips? But as the evening's get chillier, put the effort in to dress up a little and actually go out. There are tons of deals: Meerkat Movies and cheap days at the cinema, and have a look online beforehand for some vouchers for restaurants. It might not seem like much but if it's been a long time since you've gone out, it's a really fun way to get out of the typical work-eat-sleep-repeat pattern.

DO SOMETHING TOURISTY
This one can be a little pricier, but if you live near a big city or near the capital, why not do something typically touristy? Lots of cities do deals so you can do more than one attraction in one day and it's also a great way to get out of your hometown for the day. Also, chances are that there's going to be at least one touristy thing that either one of you haven't done.

GAME TOGETHER
There are plenty of PC/Xbox/Playstation/your console of choice games that can be played on Co-op. My recommendation? Scary games. There's just something romantic about your other half saving your on-screen character from zombies, trust me...

BINGE WATCH A SERIES
You probably do this often anyway but why not go all out? Book the day off work, stock up on essential snacks beforehand and aim to finish a series in one day. Shorter series like Stranger Things are perfect for this. To make the date extra cute, build a fort or make an indoor picnic.

COOK TOGETHER
One of my boyfriend and I's favourite things to do is actually cook together and this is a far cry from how I used to be when I'd never cook and was scared of experimenting with food. This can be something simple as dinner, or you could make a three course meal together and light a few candles to make it romantic when eating. There's also lots of seasonal food you can make/bake together. Stick some music on and have a laugh in the kitchen as you make food together: it's always fun. 

And if you're dateless this autumn? Don't worry, I've got you covered. Forget the local bars: take your dog (or borrow a friend's dog!) on a walk to scout potential romances, try a local gig one evening or sign up to a dating website! Some suggestions are: best dating sites, date divorced singles, Northampton dating site, dating agency London and Auckland dating - I'd suggest signing up now so you can get some autumn dates in pronto ;)

So, how about you guys? What are your favourite autumn themed dates or date ideas you've always wanted to try? Let me know!

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*Please note, this is a sponsored post but all views and opinions are entirely my own.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Oh hello, cold weather. As much as I love summer, I have anticipated this chilly but somewhat comforting weather for a long time. Why? Because it's finally an excuse to wear chunky knitwear, oversized jumpers and genuinely overly comfy clothes without giving a damn what you look like.

In celebration, I've put together a list of five of my favourite jumpers for autumn right now.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Fashion | 5 of the best fluffy knitwear for autumn | Jumpers | H&M | New Look | Mango | Next | Topshop | Autumn fashion

ONE
Stripes are massive right now, so it's only natural that this nautical striped jumper must be purchased for the winter season. Oversized and cosy, the design will spruce up any outfit and would look best simply with a pair of skinny fit jeans and chunky boots: simple as.

TWO
I adore this loose knit jumper, it looks super soft and easily fashioned. The pale pink is a nice difference to the usual winter jumper colours (grey, cream etc), which means it's super versatile. It's a nice length too, meaning a pair of high waisted trousers would go perfectly, but if you really want to stand out, try tucking it into a leather skirt for evening plans or faux leather trousers for an edgy take.

THREE
If you have me on insta, you'll know that I LOVE this jumper. The story is that a lady came into my store wearing it a few weeks back and told me she'd purchased it from New Look next door that very day. So naturally I headed over to check it out and by the following payday, it was all mine. I really love the autumn colours and it looks like it consists of that scratchy material; however it's one of the softest jumpers I've ever owned. I went a size up to feel extra cosy, but on days when it's a little warmer, I roll the sleeves up. It's a great fit too.

FOUR
This sweater has a nice seasonal feel to it with just the right amount of sparkle, meaning it's great for any chilly Christmas events coming up but can also be worn down for work. The model pairs it with a suede skirt which I think works well, but again, for really lazy day, a comfy pair of jeans would suit it well.

FIVE
Finally, I really love this slightly preppy jumper. The simple but stand out stitch design makes it just that bit different, meaning whatever you wear it with, it'll spruce it up. Even when totally dressed down, this jumper will give any outfit a stylish twist. As Topshop suggests, a clashing checked pair of trousers would complete the look, but for something less out there, a printed pair of trousers would also suit.

I've tried to shy away from the typical winter jumper offerings this year, and it just goes to show that you don't always have to wear an ill-fitting bland jumper to keep warm this winter. What do you think? Do you have your eye on any particular knitwear for autumn? Let me know!

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Last October, one of my most successful posts was my guide to Halloween in London. Even I found it really helpful to keep check on what was going on in the capital as last year I managed to get into London for a few different spooky themed events.

Therefore, I've decided to do an updated version for 2017!

Please note, however, that this list will likely be updated throughout the month and some classics from last year will be included again with an update for their 2017 themes/attractions.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | Lifestyle | Halloween in London, 2017 |

THE CLASSICS
Really, these attractions are something you all should have visited previously; after all, everyone likes to be a tourist in London. If you haven't get gotten around to it, make a date in your diary to visit some of these around All Hallow's Eve for some extra spooky scares.

THE LONDON BRIDGE EXPERIENCE & TOMBS
The best thing about the London Bridge Experience & Tombs is that there's nearly always deals on Wowcher or Groupon to get cheap entry. As well as being very easy to get to (it's literally across the road from London Bridge. The experience is set into two parts (and you don't have to do both if you don't want to). The first is the actual london bridge experience where you're taken on an interactive spooky journey to learn about London bridge's history and the past of London in general. Below, if you're brave enough, you can take on the scare attractions of the tombs, where you have the opportunity to explore themed spooky set's and avoid being scared by scare actors. My boyfriend and I did this a few months ago and I can vouch for the fact that it is seriously spooky. Children are even allowed here (and the tombs offer an adorable Guardian Angel tour), but for Halloween, brave adults can visit during the attraction's annual Phobophobia event. This is an adult only evening tour where the scares are turned up to the max. I've never been, but I've heard it involves the entire first half of the experience taking part in the pitch black, whereas a venture downstairs to the tombs proves even more disturbing than normal...

THE TOWER OF LONDON
The Tower of London has it's own gruesome history and is a total classic. It's rumoured to be one of the most haunted buildings in London and has numerous ghost stories surrounding it's old walls. There's lots of non-scary history surrounding the Tower of London too, and this Halloween you can take a Tower Twilight tour. Led by a Yeoman Warder (aka a royal bodyguard), these exclusive tours take place after dark to take in both the spooky sights and stories which make the tower so famous.

Also worth visiting: Hampton Court Palace which is well known for that spooky ghost footage, The Ten Bells pub which was Jack The Ripper's local and has been a hub of paranormal activity ever since and the Old Operating Theatre, a small museum filled to the brim with old utensils and artifacts used in medicine and surgery (often without anesthetic back then!). It's also one of the oldest surviving operating theatres. 

It may not be a scare attraction as such - but it sure is a classic. The Tower of London is steeped in history, and there's numerous ghostly stories that surround the old walls, meaning it's likely to be one of the most haunted buildings in London. It's said that Arbella Stuart - cousin of James I - haunts The Queen's House, and there's also rumours of a phantom bear. Plus, it's one of those historic buildings everyone should visit at least once during a visit to London.

THE QUIRKY (& ONE OFFS!) 
Want to go all out for Halloween and try something just that bit different? Read on...

THE 90'S BRUNCH - HEROS VS VILLIANS HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
This quirky 90's brunch has a lot more on offer then just bottomless cocktails; you can also expect a three course 90's inspired meal, entertainment, lip syncing and dance battles such as Powerpuff Girls vs MoJo Jojo! Best dressed wins a prize and those attending can also expect a bunch of spooky games and surprises on the day.
The 90's Brunch takes place on Saturday 28th October.

MURDER IN MAYFAIR
I have always wanted to attend a murder mystery evening so this seems like the perfect opportunity! Murder In Mayfair consists of a three course dinner supper club style at a haunted townhouse in Mayfair before disaster strikes. I can't reveal anymore, obviously, but the evening will be filled with twists and turns about what really happens in Mayfair. Oh, and a welcome cocktail is included.
Murder In Mayfair takes place on 28th October.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | Lifestyle | Halloween in London, 2017 | Scary | Spooky | Stranger Things | Justice For Barb

STRANGER THINGS: AN ORCHESTRAL RENDITION OF STRANGER THINGS
Love Stranger Things?! Who doesn't! Electric Brixton are offering a full orchestral rendition of the show's soundtrack: expect renditions of classics of The Clash, Joy Division and Stranger Thing's theme tune too, of course. The event will also include Upside Down production, 80s fancy dress and a retro light show. It takes place on the same night the second series launches so it's the perfect way to get you into the mood for a binge watch.
Stranger Things: An Orchestral Rendition of Stranger Things takes place on the 27th October.

BLOCK PARTY CINEMA HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: GET OUT 
Broadcasting one of the best acclaimed horror movies of 2017, Block Party Cinema are offering one of the best movie nights of Halloween. The event takes place in the industrial warehouse space of Black Swan Studios and is hosted by Remel London. Other treats on the night include pre-film entertainment, prizes and giveaways and so much popcorn - yummy.
The Block Party Cinema Halloween special takes place on the 31st October.

ZOMBIE ESCAPE
Escape rooms have become huge in popularity over the past few years so it's only fitting that a zombie-themed one has been launched for Halloween. The hour long event will require you to locate clues and solve riddles to escape a room as the chain keeping the zombie at bay is released another foot every five minutes. Tickets are limited for this scary escape room in Whitechapel though, so book them pronto.
Zombie Escape takes place on the 26th October.

DISCO YOGA: SATURDAY FRIGHT FEVER BRUNCH!
Disco Yoga always sounds like a good idea, especially when it's held at my fave, The Hoxton Hotel. So as well as yoga (obviously) to a spooky soundtrack, you can turn up early to visit their DIY glitter and UV station. This will be followed by a spooky cocktail (or mocktail) and then a three course disco themed brunch. And yes, the brunch includes vegan options. Yummy.
Disco Yoga takes place on the 28th October.

PUT A SPELL ON YOU - HOCUS POCUS DANCE CLASS
I was never actually a huge fan of Hocus Pocus but learning the dance from the film sounds super fun, especially as it's held at Drink Shop Do. It is literally an hour and a half dance class but hey, it's still edgy. Drink Shop Do are also hosting Thriller and Time Warp dance classes and sparking pumpkin carving throughout October.
Put A Spell On You is held on various dates throughout October.

WALKS, GHOST HUNTS & TOURS
Wrap up warm and explore the spookier side of London by foot (or on bus!).

THE GHOST BUS TOUR
I'll always recommend The Ghost Bus Tour as a really alternative and edgy way to explore London. You board a funky black bus which is themed inside with little lamps and red seating then you're taken on a trip around London with some oddball characters. There's also a few scares along the way...
The Ghost Bus Tour runs on Thursday to Sunday evenings.

LONDON GHOST HUNTS
Though pricey, a ghost hunt is the ultimate way to celebrate Halloween. Haunted Happening's offer a variety of ghost hunts around London with locations including the London Tombs, Charlton House and Drakelow tunnels. All I can say is good luck!
London Ghost Hunts take place on various dates at various locations; check the Haunted Happenings website for more information.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | Lifestyle | Halloween in London, 2017 | Scary | Spooky | Jack The Ripper Walk | Discovery Events

JACK THE RIPPER WALK
I've been on this walk before and let me tell you: it is spooky, as well as fascinating. It's a long walking tour at two hours long but along the way you learn so much about Jack The Ripper, as well as visiting many of the locations associated with the murders. You'll also learn about who Jack was actually rumoured to be and will be well informed to make your own guesses. 
Jack The Ripper tours with Discovery Events run seven nights a week throughout the year.

A TOUR OF BROMPTON CEMETERY
London is filled with beautiful cemeteries and Brompton Cemetery is one ofthe most beautiful. In fact, this Victorian cemetery is worth a visit any time of year. Though not necessarily Halloween themed, for something more tame, why not book onto a tour of the cemetery this October? The Friends Of Brompton Cemetery offer guided tours throughout the year.
The last guided tour of October take place on the 22nd.

These are just my top picks for Halloween; of course there's so many, from themed club nights and discos to dark cabaret and circus's - the list really is endless. I'll hopefully continue to update this post as more things come on my radar but in the meantime, what events are you recommending this October? Let me know!

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Saturday, 14 October 2017

Last weekend, my family got together for a trip to Shropshire to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday. Between the eight of us, we rented two 'tents' at Love2Stay, arriving on the Friday and heading back Sunday afternoon (though some of my family stayed on until Monday morning check out time).

I'd never been glamping before; only camping and staying in hotels so I was excited to try a mix of the two. I wasn't sure what to expect from the site however. It looked stunning in the photos and was right up my sister's street, but a rural weekend away wouldn't have been my first choice for birthday plans, so I was open minded and eager to see how it would turn out.

The site is only a ten minute drive from central Shropshire, a charming little town with cute gardens, quirky shops and lots of yummy cafes (and vegan choices too!) and it only took us a couple of hours to drive up from Luton.

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We were greeted with a lovely sight when we arrived. We faced beautiful countryside surrounding a real glam and welcoming glamping village. When we headed inside our tent, we were gobsmacked to find it was more like a rural hotel apartment. It was fully kitted out with heating and electric (as well as a wooden fire pit outside!), a huge bathroom with a stand-alone bath and large shower and one double bed, two bunkbeds and a sweet den-like bed hidden away up a ladder. This is where my boyfriend and I slept, naturally!

The whole 'tent' was decorated tastefully too with a breakfast bar and a mustard yellow and duck egg blue theme throughout.

Oh, and did I mention the amazing hot tub outside each tent?!

We loved the hot tub. Each hot tub was large enough to fit four to six people and it was a real hot tub if you get what I mean. It had strong jets, mood lighting and it was actually hot, meaning that even though it was in October, we were at the perfect temperature once in the water.

On our first evening, we lit the fire and had a few drinks surrounding the firepit before retiring to the hot tub. It was really nice and a lovely experience overall.

Although there was lots to do on site, I had mixed feelings about the activities. It was the perfect option for families; my niece enjoyed it, as did the adults and even though I am an adult, for those like me in their twenties I would say there wasn't a whole lot except for the hot tubs and natural swimming pool (which was of course way too cold to go in!). 

Some of the activities I wanted to try were not possible either. The army style assault course had to be booked out as a PT session early on the Sunday morning, which meant you couldn't just do this of your own accord. The forest walk was actually just a short walk leading to the main road with half grown trees either side, and the barefoot sensory walk was not yet ready at all as they'd decided to move it from where it was supposed to be and build it elsewhere. This did make me giggle because it was still on the map when a) it wasn't built yet and b) was going to be built somewhere else entirely.

However, it is also Love2Stay's first season so understandably there are teething problems. Obviously the trees were not fully grown for the forest walk, and we often had long waits for food in the cafe (we waited half an hour for two coffees and two cans of pepsi on one day). The cafe also did not offer vegan choices as previously stated (my sister had rung up in advance to check), apart from a vegetable pizza but without cheese.

Despite this, our stay was a lot of fun and I would still recommend a visit to Love2Stay for families or anyone after a rural weekend escape that's a bit different. I would say it's very similar to Centreparcs, only cheaper and with a little less to do. 

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | A weekend glamping with Love2Stay | Love2Stay | Glamping | Shropshire | Travel

The best part about the weekend though was that it brought family together; I don't often see my dad anymore and see my brother, sister and niece even less. So it was really nice to head into each tent for a big breakfast together or home cooked chilli (vegan option included) courtesy of my sister. It was also nice to get out in the countryside and do some walking. We spent some time exploring Shropshire where we walked along the river and visited some beautiful gardens.

I wish I'd had time to take one of the fitness classes or visit the spa, as I feel the spa in particular would have really redeemed the small issues we did have and would have outweighed the few negatives - but maybe next time!

Overall it was a lovely weekend and although it wasn't my first choice for birthday plans, I enjoyed spending time with family and could see why someone like my sister who is a huge fan of the outdoors enjoyed it so much. Other than a few of the teething problems, it was a fun experience to go glamping and I would recommend it.

Have you ever been glamping? Let me know!

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Starting a blog could be one of the greatest things you’ll ever do. It offers a chance to share your experiences, opinions, and passions in a productive manner. If it goes well, there could also be a fantastic opportunity to earn some serious money in the process.

The biggest challenges almost certainly come during the blog’s infancy. However, this simple checklist should enable the platform to become established and successful in no time. Here are the key factors that your blog needs.


A VOICENobody is going to listen to a blogger that has nothing to say. It can be tempting to follow the money, but writing about your passions is vital. Not only will this enable you to find your voice and speak with authority. But it will also make the tasks far more enjoyable.

GREAT DESIGN
Visitors will judge your blog from the second that they open the page. This is why it must boast a crisp, clear design with great navigation on desktop and mobile. If reading posts feels like a chore rather than a leisurely activity, they’ll soon take their interest elsewhere. 

MONEY
Launching a blog doesn’t require vast sums of cash. However, you will need to invest in equipment and marketing. You may need to borrow money while the venture is still growing too. Find out more at cashloans.co. Failing because of funds would be nothing short of a disaster.

VISABILITY
The success of the business is largely determined by the ability to gain traffic. Viral content and sponsored posts can win new audiences. The best trick, though, is to let people find you. With this in mind, getting your site on the first page of Google results is crucial.

REVENUE
As a commercial venture, the blog doesn’t simply need visitors. It also needs money making resources. Many bloggers start by utilising Google Ads. You can also use services like redbubble.com to sell products. Alternatively, guest posts and sponsored content can earn cash too.

VARIED MEDIA
Blogging offers several advantages over traditional print media. Being able to use videos, audio, and images to greater effect is certainly up there. They help keep the blog fresh for the reader and exciting for you. Besides, that content is often easier for readers to digest.


REGULAR POSTS
Readers will soon get bored if the blog isn’t updated frequently. You need to treat it as a small business, which is why creating a great workspace is key. Get yourself into the routine of writing and creating content on a schedule. And if you have to take a break, plan ahead.

A NETWORK
Unlike many businesses, your competitors aren’t a major threat. Readers can stay loyal to more than one blog. This is why collaborations can work wonders. Most importantly, you want to utilise your audience with viral content and regular interaction. This should bring audience growth.

Get those eight factors right, and your blog will find the road to success in no time.

*Please note this post has been contributed.

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Last year on Formidable Joy, I talked about some of America's best scare attractions. This year, I'm going to focus more on the UK! 

I'll still do a round up post about what's going on in London, but this post is to focus on everywhere else. Theme parks are especially popular at Halloween as they host a variety of fright nights (a general name, although also the official name of Thorpe Park's themed scare evenings), and in recent years, farms have gotten in on the action too.

So, here's what's going on around the UK at farm's, theme parks and anything else outside of London...

Please note, unless otherwise stated, each fright night runs on selected nights throughout October, but I'd advise checking for exact dates and prices.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | UK Fright Nights | Thorpe Park | Fright Nights | Mead Open Farm | The Howl Scream Park | Alton Towers | Scarefest | Dr Frights Halloween Nights | Chessington | Howloween | Screamland Margate | Zed Events

THORPE PARK'S FRIGHT NIGHTS
Beginning with the actual 'fright night', Thorpe Park are this year theming their Fright Night's around The Walking Dead. And we all know how scary/awesome zombies are...For 2017, two new mazes have been announced (Living Nightmare & Sanctum) and returning frights include Platform 15, Saw: Alive (I braves this once in the middle of summer and this scared the crap outta me, so it'll probably be terrifying this October), The Big Top and Containment. Containment sounds particularly scary as those brave enough will be put into groups of ten and locked inside FOUR haunt rooms. Creepy.

THE HOWL SCREAM PARK @ MEAD OPEN FARM
This is one attraction I'm especially looking forward to, having visited Mead Open Farm on various occasions when growing up. A visit to the farm will find you experiencing both street theatre and scary haunts such as Hotel de Basquervilles, Topper's Twister, House of Hounds, The Shed and Squealers Yard. Looking at the website, The Shed sounds most scary (with a scare factor of 9!), but I can't help but think that Topper's Twister will be particularly scary too, especially with the inclusion of clowns..

ALTON TOWERS' SCAREFEST
Alton Towers' Scarefest is a tad more family friendly in that it offers both thrilling frights and family fun. Families can enjoy four spooky live shows with song, dance and stories and a flashmob of dancing ancestors. There's also the Freak Show Scare Zone and the House of Monsters, which is dubbed perfect for those who just like a light fright. Those a little braver can visit in the evening for after dark rides and four scare mazes - Terror of the Towers, Sub Species - The End Games, Altonville Mine Tours, and, new for 2017, The Welcoming: Be Chosen. But, as anyone who has visited Alton Towers before will know, even if you visit just for the rides, a visit will be filled with visually stunning and thrilling fun.

DR FRIGHT'S HALLOWEEN NIGHTS
I can personally vouch for the fact that this attraction is petrifying, having attended myself a few years ago. But despite being scary, it's also visually stunning with amazing sets and even better attention to detail. This year's event, Legends of Horror, will include four mazes/sets which customers must brave and complete to tick off and relax in the Horror bar afterwards. This years mazes are: Redneck Wedding, Dead Inside, Hollywood Horror 2 and Killer Clowns in a Supermarket. When I went, one maze took place in a makeshift swamp, which involved us running beneath makeshift stars, across bridges over water and crawling through a caravan. This was my favourite because it was great to see how much thought had gone into it. 


Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Halloween | UK Fright Nights | Thorpe Park | Fright Nights | Mead Open Farm | The Howl Scream Park | Alton Towers | Scarefest | Dr Frights Halloween Nights | Chessington | Howloween | Screamland Margate | Zed Events

SCREAMLAND, MARGATE
I've heard good things about Dreamland, and even better things about Screamland, the spooky Halloween version of Margate's traditional seaside funfair/amusement park. There's something real nostalgic about the park, so any after dark visits are sure to be interesting. The event runs for only six nights, and those attending will be able to brave six varied scare mazes, as well as unlimited use of all the rides and attractions.

CHESSINGTON'S HOWLOWEEN
Chessington is another theme park that's perfect for some spooky family fun this Halloween. If you log onto their website you can even find a spook rating guide which rates rides and attractions ranging from 'perfect to little spooks' (0+ years), to 'For the fearless' (10+ years). Attractions include Creepy Caves Unearthed, Spooky Story Time, Curse of the Lost Tomb, Trick or Treat Wood and rides in the dark of course. There's also a fancy dress competition, which is always fun!

ZED EVENTS
Finally, for something more hands on, Zed Events has the answer. If you're a fan of zombies like me, then what could be better than a two and a half hour experience trying to escape them/defeat them? Unlike what is now traditional jump scares, this immersive event instead requires you to attend a briefing and basic training with the use of a special ZED-exclusive (and entirely safe!) firearm, before you are let lose in an abandoned mall where you must escape zombies and survive your experience. It's had amazing reviews and is something I've wanted to try for years..

Off course this is just a round up of some theme parks and other attractions I think are worth checking out; we'd be here forever if I was to list everything going on in the UK this October!

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